Debt scuttles AirZim plans


STATE-OWNED national carrier Air Zimbabwe failed to resume flights to London last November amid reports that the airline has a $3 million outstanding debt for airport, navigation fees and catering expenses.

Business Reporter

Sources close to the developments say plans by the resurgent airline to fly to Gatwick were scuttled after the airline failed to settle debts.

The airline, according to the sources, owes $1,5 million to French firm Asecna for navigation while the remaining $1,5 million is owed to British Airport Authority (BAA) for landing and parking fees. BAA owns Gatwick Airport where the airline flies to.

“The airline has a $3 million debt accrued over the last five years. Its creditors include Asecna for flying over French airspace. Gate Gourmet and Avianca are also owed by the airline. The former provided catering services for Zimbabwe when it used to fly to Gatwick,” the source said.

AirZim chairman Ozias Bvute could not be reached for comment.

The airline, sources said, has plans to buy a new aircraft as it looks to other markets to grow business.

Air Zimbabwe, which is currently restructuring, plans to add the new aircraft to its fleet through a lease-to-own arrangement with South Africa-based Solenta Aviation. Embraer is one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers.

The Brazilian company manufactures its ERJ range which has a seating capacity of between 37 and 50 and is meant for regional and domestic commercial airline operators.

Air Zimbabwe’s market share for the period ending December 31 2012, according to the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, plunged to 0,8% from 27% in 2009 triggered by viability problems confronting the national carrier.

The downward spiral came at a time when other airlines were feasting on Air Zimbabwe’s inability to service its routes with South African Airways increasing frequency into Zimbabwe.